Social networks are heavily implicated in large-scale social transformations. They are both transformed and transformative. We review the ways in which social networks act as agents of change in macrohistorical processes, stressing two distinct theoretical approaches. Formalism analyzes the structure of networks. Relationalism evaluates the linking properties of networks. Using these two approaches to organize the literature, we present the current state of knowledge on the effects of social networks for four central macrohistorical outcomes: civil uprising, state formation, global and national policy formation and diffusion, and economic development and increasing inequality. We then consider new theoretical advances in institutional emergence and methodological innovations in computational modeling and their potential for reconciling and advancing existing findings and approaches on the effects of social networks on macrosocial change.
Annual Review of Sociology – Annual Reviews
Published: Jul 31, 2017
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